NASA In Brief -- Mars rocket in development

From NASA Reports
An artist's illustration shows NASA’s Space Launch System at the Kennedy Space Center launchpad. Image: NASA.
An artist's illustration shows NASA’s Space Launch System at the Kennedy Space Center launchpad. Image: NASA.

   Charging forward with a plan to build a powerful rocket that will take mankind to Mars, NASA announced this week that its new Space Launch System had completed rigorous review and is advancing to the development stage.

     No other "exploration class" vehicle has moved from formulation to development since NASA built the space shuttle, according to the agency.
     For its first flight test, the Space Launch System will carry an unmanned Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit.
     This decision comes after a thorough review that includes a development cost of $7 billion from February 2014 through the first launch. NASA projects an initial flight no later than November 2018.
     Conservative cost and schedule commitments account for potential technical risks and budgetary uncertainty beyond the program's control. The funding level will keep the agency on track to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, an administrator said.
     The Space Launch System will be the world's most capable rocket -- opening frontiers for explorers traveling aboard the Orion capsule.   
     POWERHOUSE GALAXY: For the first time, astronomers have glimpsed the earliest stages of massive galaxy construction --a dense galactic core blazing with the light of millions of newborn stars that are forming at a ferocious rate.
     The discovery was made through combined observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory, in which NASA plays an important role.
     A fully developed elliptical galaxy is a gas-deficient gathering of ancient stars theorized to develop from the inside out, with a compact core marking its beginnings. Because the galactic core is so far away, the light of the forming galaxy that is observable from Earth was actually created 11 billion years ago, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang, according to NASA.
     Although only a fraction of the size of the Milky Way, the tiny powerhouse galactic core already contains about twice as many stars as our own galaxy, all crammed into a region only 6,000 light-years across. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light-years across.
     The paper appears in the Aug. 27 issue of the journal Nature.


     NASA focuses on rocket, plans for deep space

     NASA's Orion spacecraft takes shape in Florida